The Columbia River Gorge is a spectacular river canyon cutting 80 miles long and up to 4,000 feet deep with the north canyon walls in Washington and the south canyon walls in Oregon. The mission of the Columbia Gorge Ecology Institute is to create life-long learning opportunities that foster a sense of wonder and community [...]


The Ecology Institute’s SECRETS program has served regional schools since 1996.  From a handful of classes when it began, the SECRETS program now reaches almost every 5th grade classroom in a 2,000 square mile service area and is known as the leading educational resource throughout the region. In addition, our Science in Action program offers [...]

Support Us

The Ecology Institute depends on the support of donors and volunteers to keep our programs running and reach students throughout the Columbia River Gorge! There are many ways you can support the Institute, including donating, volunteering, and program sponsorship.  You can also learn more on how to support the Institute through other gifts of stock or estate [...]

Nature Notes

Why do we love environmental and place-based education?  Because we love the outdoor world and want to share our enthusiasm with you!  Welcome to Nature Notes: posts on our blog to tell you when the first grass widows bloom, what species are migrating through the Gorge, or fun facts about trees you see every day.

But we need your help.  Let us know when you see new flowers blooming or interesting wildlife.  Ask us questions about the natural world.  We will create a Nature Note and share it on our blog, our Facebook page, and our twitter feed.  So make sure you’re following us to get the latest updates about the beautiful place we live!

To make a Nature Note on a recent wildflower or wildlife sighting in the Gorge send a short story or essay and a photo or two if possible to info(at)gorgeecology(dot)org with “Nature Note” in the subject line.  We’ll compile reports, post them on our blog, and share on our Facebook page to let you know when a new Nature Notes post is up.




  • Blue belly

    on Wonder

    In grad school, I learned to be really good at answering questions. You had to be—English departments, in striving for quantifiable excellence that might mirror their scientific sister departments, have come to prioritize things like thesis statements, highly specialized arguments, and the propping up of one’s reasoning on legs made of unquestionable steel.     [...]

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    I’m “Lichen” What I’m Seein’

    I took advantage of a day off of school this winter to attempt a hike at Tabletop Mountain, which runs along a stretch of the PCT near Stevenson, WA.  This is a gorgeous hike that includes rapid changes in ecosystem type, which affords much to see along the way. Unfortunately, there was no summit for [...]

  • Tree Reading

    Check out this fun video from our Gorge Explorers program!

    Our Gorge Explorers summer program has come to a close and we’ve taken a moment in our latest newsletter to reflect on the whirlwind of programming that occurred over the past few months. Check out the video that one of the high school students in our Gorge Explorers program created that highlights some of the [...]

  • A Wintry Mix You Say?

    Welcome to winter in the gorge! There is nothing more majestic and a little bit startling to receive a blizzard warning for the Pacific Northwest, especially in Hood River County. Even though I was super excited to see snowflakes coming down from the sky a few weeks ago, it was a bit concerning when I [...]

  • Steelhead Jones

    Have you met Steelhead Jones?

    Follow Steelhead Jones, the brave adventurer and ecologist, as he explores the Mt. Hood National Forest and discovers organisms living in the forest ecosystem. This is the first installment of a series that is sure to be entertaining, and potentially even educational.   Steelhead Jones #1 – Ecosystems

  • First Impressions

    It’s my second week in the Columbia River Gorge and I still cannot believe how lucky I am to call this place my new home. As I recall the awe and beauty I felt gazing at Mt. Hood for the first time, I remember how I immediately wanted this land to become a part of [...]

  • Drew Eastman leading students on an exploration of the Mt. Adams foothills.

    Outdoor Education as a Lifestyle

    “Don’t ever give up trying to get kids outside!” is what 90 year old Phyllis Clausen uttered as we brought closure to our discussion on May 3rd. These words have stuck with me and in some ways have been haunting me. With a work load that seems to continually increase, avenues for income steadily decreasing, [...]

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    Baby Birds in My Backyard!

    I have baby birds in a birdhouse in my yard! Each time I get near the birdhouse I can hear the babies inside chirping and peeping. Not having seen the parents, and curious to know what species of bird they are, I got a ladder and took a peek inside. While unable to see the [...]

  • It finally snowed!

    On Thursday February 6th, 2014 I woke up with hopes that the forecast was accurate and we were finally going to get some precipitation, however, I remained cautiously optimistic due to the lack of water we had seen this winter. As I sat in a meeting that morning, next to a large picture window, I [...]

  • Who’s Eating the Trees?

    Winter is on its way and sadly the beautiful fall colors are fading. Luckily we live in an ecosystem where it stays green, or evergreen if you will! But look around and you’ll notice many more pines are loosing their green dressings and unfortunately they are not just  getting ready for winter. The pines in the [...]